Wasteless Wednesday: Veggie Smoosh Burgers

May 27, 2015 § 3 Comments

Last year I posted a recipe for Spring Vegetable Broth, which in retrospect, should have been titled “Year-Round Vegetable Broth.” Although the vegetables called for hit that seasonal sweet spot between late winter and early spring, you’re likely to be able to find the ingredients (or flavorful substitutes) just about any time of year here in the 650.

Vegetables in the pot for broth

Vegetables in the pot for broth

I’ve been making this broth for years; it’s a staple in my kitchen. Healthful, low-fat, and fresh, it has been the basis for so many comforting soups, rice dishes, and pastas. Making broths and stocks are a great way to use up wilty and just-about-out-the-door vegetables and herbs, leftover peels, and a variety of vegetable bits and bobs. Spring Vegetable Broth is the kind of recipe that not only offers a simple and useful way to reduce food waste in the kitchen, but also encourages creative, to-your-taste cooking.

Truth be told, I never make this broth exactly the same way twice. I’ve substituted yellow carrots for orange, sweet potatoes for butternut squash, dried thyme for fresh… you get the idea. And yet, every time, I end up with a flavorful broth that is good its own or as the basis of a homemade soup.

The by-product of this tasty broth is what I’ve referred to as the vegetable “smoosh.” After boiling the vegetables, herbs, and spices in filtered water for an hour or so, you press everything through a strainer to extract all of that brothy goodness. What you’re left with is a small pile of smashed vegetables that look something like rough baby food. And what do you do with this smoosh? Well, for lack of a better idea, it’s likely to end up in the green bin or compost pile. But what if you could use it for another recipe? A two-for-one deal, if you will. That would be a big win in the weekly war on food waste at home!

Using a ladle to extract more broth

Vegetables getting the “smoosh” treatment to extract broth

That’s the question I’ve been considering for the past year or so: what if you could make something out of the leftovers of making broth? For starters, it’s not much to look at — boiled down, smashed vegetables. Then there’s the fact that some of the flavor has been extracted for the broth. And yet, it just seems like such a waste to toss out what amounts to about a pound of rough vegetable mash. It is, after all, still food. Making something out of it would not only reduce food waste, but let you benefit twice from the money spent on those vegetables in the first place.

With a little doctoring, it turns out that vegetable smoosh is a good base for homemade veggie burgers! The first step? Make sure you’ve strained as much liquid as possible out of the vegetable mash. Once you’ve got a fairly dry and chunky mixture of vegetable smoosh, adding brown rice and bread crumbs give some substance to the mix and absorb any remaining liquid. Adding an egg helps bind everything together and adds a little fat (not a bad thing). The vegetable flavors are muted, so you’ll need to add herbs and spices that accent the vegetables without overwhelming them. Finally, a two-step stove-top cooking method lets you get a crisp exterior on the burgers, while cooking them thoroughly.

Recipe: Veggie Smoosh Burgers
Yield: 4 small burgers (approximately 3″ patties)

You’ll need to make sure that you’ve extracted as much liquid as possible from the vegetable smoosh before making the burgers, which means putting some muscle into the straining part of making the broth. (Note that this recipe calls for 8 ounces of vegetable smoosh, although a full batch of Spring Vegetable Broth should produce about 1 pound of smoosh, enough for a double-batch of burgers.)

Serve these burgers on a bun with your favorite toppings, or bunless alongside a seasonal, fresh green salad. Mild tomato-based sauces, such as pico de gallo and homemade ketchup complement the delicate vegetable flavor of these burgers, as do carrot-top pesto or hummus.

What you need:

Medium-sized bowl
Rubber spatula
Plate for breading the patties
12-14″ frying pan (or use a 10″ frying pan and cook the patties in two batches)
Turner/spatula

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic vegetable smoosh, leftover from making Spring Vegetable Broth, with as much liquid as possible pressed out
3 ounces cooked organic brown rice
1 ounce dry breadcrumbs, plus 1/2 cup for coating the patties (I used homemade breadcrumbs from spelt bread)
1 tablespoon chopped or snipped fresh chives (1/4″ pieces)
1 large egg
½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying the pattiesburger-ingredients

How to:

  1. Using a rubber spatula, combine the vegetable smoosh, rice, and breadcrumbs in a medium-size bowl.
  2. Add the egg, worcestershire sauce, spices, and chives and mix until thoroughly combined.
    The mixture should be sticky, but not stiff. You should be able to easily scoop the mixture and form it into a cohesive ball.combining-ingreds
  3. Divide the mixture into four equal-sized portions (approximately 3.5 ounces each). Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten it into a patty.
    The patties should be about ½” thick and about 3″ in diameter.patty-and-balls
  4. Pour the additional ½ cup of breadcrumbs onto a plate for coating the patties.
  5. Press both sides and the edges of each patty into the breadcrumbs, coating completely.
    breading-pattyWhen all patties are coated in breadcrumbs, set aside while you heat the pan for frying.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the frying pan and heat on high until the oil glistens but doesn’t smoke.
    Swirl the oil around the pan to coat the bottom completely.
  7. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 30-60 seconds to “sear” the outside, then turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for another 7 minutes.frying-patties-2
  8. Turn the heat back up to high, flip the patties, and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Again, cook for 30-60 seconds to “sear” the outside, then turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for another 7 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

    Vegetable burger patty topped with tomato salsa and cultured sour cream

    Vegetable burger patty topped with tomato salsa and cultured sour cream

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